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Vers une histoire de l’art (numérique) spatiale

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Since the Comité International d’Histoire de l’Art chose “Sites and Territories of Art History” as the theme of its 2004 Conference and the subsequent publication of Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann’s Toward a Geography of Art, questions of geography have dominated discussions in art history. Yet, there have been few attempts to convert these geohistorical speculations into maps. In 1949, the French historian Fernand Braudel had noted that “We have museum catalogs, but no artistic atlases.” Sixty years later, atlases or even mere maps are still nearly non-existent in art history. In response to this blatant lacuna, a few scholars have started leveraging recent developments in GIS and web mapping to create multidimensional, dynamic maps that display vast amounts of spatial and temporal data while remaining perfectly readable and intuitive. Such endeavors include the École normale supérieure’s Artl@s project, and Stanford University’s “Mapping the Republic of Letters” website.

Dynamic spatial visualizations are particularly useful in revealing how spatial logics interact with artistic creation. They also allow historians to study the locations and movements of artistic agents and artworks, their integration in social milieus and, more specifically, in political, cultural, and artistic fields, as well as their response, whether visual or discursive, to these spatial logics. Combined with a narrative interpretation of visual and textual sources, maps enable us to escape purely theoretical speculation, and to replace, as Franco Moretti put it, the “old unnecessary distinctions (high and low, canon and archive, such-and-such national literature…) by new temporal, spatial and morphological distinctions.”

The new Spatial (Digital) art history therefore participates in the redefinition of the discipline of art history by embracing the theories and methods of the Spatial, Global, and Digital Turns that have challenged humanities over the past decades. But in what directions is this Spatial (Digital) approach taking the discipline ? What are its connections with past and current developments in geography, social sciences, and critical theory ? What kind of new findings and new interpretations does it achieve ?

With this panel we wish to bring together scholars who are pioneering the field of Spatial (Digital) art history, to not only take stock of projects currently under development and allow the audience to learn about them, but also to foster exchange and collaboration among Spatial (Digital) historians. We seek papers that combine a concrete presentation of a cartographic project with a methodological reflection on the use of maps and digital tools.

 

 

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